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We challenge you to stop once you’ve started eating this! Serve as a main dish with some Greek yoghurt or yoghurt with cucumber. Leftovers are good served at room temperature.

Mejadra – to serve 6

  • 250g green or brown lentils
  • 4 medium onions
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 250ml sunflower oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1½ tbsp coriander seeds
  • 200g basmati rice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1½ tsp ground allspice
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 350ml water

Put the lentils in small saucepan, cover generously with water, bring to the boil and cook for 12-15 minutes or until they are soft but still have some bite, then drain.

Thinly slice the onions and put on a large flat plate. Sprinkle with flour and 1 tsp salt and toss with your hands. Heat 250ml sunflower oil in a medium heavy-based saucepan over a high heat. The oil is ready when a small piece of onion sizzles vigorously. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add a third of the onion. Fry for 5-7 minutes, stirring now and then, until golden-brown and crispy. Use a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle over a little more salt. Repeat with the next two batches (add a bit more oil if necessary).

Discard the oil and wipe the saucepan clean. Add the cumin and coriander seeds and put over a medium heat and toast the seeds for a minute or two. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, ½ tsp salt and lots of black pepper. Stir until the rice is coated with oil, then add the cooked lentils and the water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer on a very low heat for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat, remove the lid and quickly cover with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and leave for 10 minutes.

Add half the fried onion and gently fork through. Pile up in a shallow serving bowl and top with the rest of the onion.

Wine Suggestion: This dish deserves a light red without too much aggressive tannins, weight or alcohol. A youthful Syrah from a lesser appellation in the Rhone would work, like St Joseph or Crozes-Hermitage. Alternately, try a youthful local red from the Golan Heights or Lebanon where the spiciness and warmth will also compliment the flavours.

(Original recipe from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Ebury Press, 2012)

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